#SFTop25 finalist 2017- Rupert Yakelashek and Franny Ladell Yakelashek

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Ages: 13 and 10
Hometown: Victoria, British Columbia

Rupert learned about the importance of safe food, water and air for all Canadians through the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Movement. When he discovered that Canada was not one of the 100 countries that recognize environmental rights, he organized a rally in front of Victoria City Hall called “Rupert’s Rally for a Healthy Environment.” In the end, the city councillors voted unanimously in favour of the declaration, recognizing the right to a healthy environment and motivating Rupert to attend other council meetings and write to every municipality on Vancouver Island.

These efforts placed Rupert as one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 in 2015, and he has placed again this year for his continued efforts and dedication to expand the movement. Rupert’s younger sister Franny has also placed with him this year, for her commitment to the work they are now doing together.

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Franny first learned about the concept of environmental rights at the age of seven, when she attended a nature scavenger hunt hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation. She was deeply impacted by the fact that the environment gives us everything we need to survive, yet some people are not protecting our life-giving planet. She was disheartened to learn that some children in her own country were unsafe because of the poor environmental conditions around them.

After attending the scavenger hunt, Franny helped Rupert hand-deliver letters to municipal leaders and spoke to them about why environmental rights were important to her. In December of 2014, shy and quiet Franny made a presentation at the Victoria City Council meeting where the mayor and council were going to vote on an environmental rights motion. Her words brought tears to many’s eyes.

Since then, Rupert and Franny have engaged with municipalities and districts across Vancouver Island, resulting in over 20 new municipal environmental rights declarations on the island and inspiring similar declarations in Smithers, Masset and Powell River. They spoke at a Union of B.C. Municipalities conference and convinced members to vote for their declaration.

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The siblings have now begun work on provincial and federal bills of environmental rights. They have had productive meetings with Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. They have also written to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and all B.C. communities who already have municipal environmental rights declarations, asking them to contact federal leaders to ask them to champion a federal bill of environmental rights.

Rupert radiates optimism. Instead of being discouraged by negative news, he is inspired to work harder to make the world a better place.  Besides being courageous and hardworking, Franny is a creative individual, who has worked with the Greater Victoria Art Gallery to develop a class that explores environmental and indigenous rights. Recently she has taken a temporary public art installation piece out into the community to invite reflection and inquisition around environmental and indigenous rights.  

In the next five to 10 years, Franny hopes to continue developing her voice as an activist and an artist, continue working with government until it recognizes the right to live in a healthy environment and create new art that inspires others to look at the world in different ways.  Rupert plans to further deepen his understanding of complex environmental issues and hopes to motivate other young people to become civically and environmentally engaged.  

Franny and Rupert would like to thank the David Suzuki Foundation, the Blue Dot team, Victoria City Council, other mayors and councillors that have supported them, friends, family, Franny’s faithful pet rabbit and each other for their collective successes thus far as environmentalists.

Franny and Rupert have accomplished impressive feats together. We wish them the best of luck in their continued efforts towards having the provincial and federal governments recognize environmental rights and their many other future endeavours.

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This article was sponsored by The David Suzuki Foundation and the Blue Dot Movement. Here’s what they have to say about Rupert and Franny:

Franny and Rupert Yakelashek embody what is best about Blue Dot/David Suzuki Foundation volunteers - tenacity, passion and the belief that we will have a better future if we understand that we are all interconnected and interdependent with nature. Thank you Franny and Rupert for your dedication to bringing environmental rights to Canada and congratulations for being recognized as top Canadian Environmentalists under 25. Please join Franny and Rupert at bluedot.ca.